Due to being away on annual leave last week, I didn’t get a chance to blog on the last Educational Continuity Direction, which was the fourth issued by the Scottish Government. It was not hugely exciting in that it mainly continued the previous directions, with some additional bits and bobs about preparing for schools re-opening on 11 August. It also effectively brought to an end the provision of childcare for keyworker and vulnerable children, as of 31 July 2020.
But 5? Five! Well, this is the one we have been waiting for. Issued on Thursday 6th August, but not coming into force until Monday 10th? You know we’ve got something special on our hands.
For one thing, this direction is due to remain in place until 30th August 2020, and – as things stand – “it is not anticipated that a further direction will be required.”
As before, the direction applies only to education authority schools. The main focus is now on the re-opening of schools, and the requirements are set out plainly:
- schools may reopen to pupils from 11th August 2020;
- schools must reopen to pupils by 18th August 2020;
- authorities must prepare contingency plans to be used “immediately in the event of a local coronavirus outbreak”.
There are no specific requirements about steps to be taken for safety, but there is a general objective:
preventing the transmission of coronavirus, the welfare of children and young people and staff, and the importance of continuity of education.
And, as always, education authorities have to have regard to “relevant guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers” (of which there is no shortage).
And, contrary to expectations, there is no continuation of the disregard of failures in certain statutory duties – including key deadlines and duties within the additional support needs legislation. Therefore, the period during which education authorities (and parents) may be able to rely on failures to comply with certain duties being disregarded is limited to the period from 2pm on 21 May 2020 until 1 minute past midnight on 10 August 2020 – and only insofar as it is the restrictions within the direction(s) which have led to the failure.
This means, of course, that in returning schools have all the same duties in place to make adequate and efficient provision for pupils’ additional support needs, and to make reasonable adjustments (including the provision of auxiliary aids and services) to avoid substantial disadvantage to disabled pupils. Under the circumstances, there may well be significant needs to be met, and adjustments to be made. The latest direction has effectively removed any “but the pandemic” excuse for disregarding those duties.
You can access all of the Educational Continuity Directions (and the accompanying guidance documents) on the Scottish Government educational continuity direction page.